ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An Air Force pilot and his stealth fighter assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska went missing Tuesday evening. The F-22 Raptor was on a routine training mission when it lost contact with air traffic control at 7:40 p.m. Alaska time.
Using HH-60 helicopters and an HC-130, the Alaska Air National Guard is searching an area northeast of Cantwell, Alaska, the last known location of the aircraft.
"Right now, our top priority is to try to bring the pilot home safely," said Col. Jack McMullen, 3rd Wing commander. "We will continue to search until we find our pilot. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this missing Airman."
The pilot and his $143 million aircraft is assigned to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, just north of Anchorage. The Air Force has not released the pilot's name.
The guard said the missing plane was flying with another fighter, which also lost contact with the jet.
The F-22 is the military's newest and most technologically advanced fighter. It's a one-man, stealth supercruiser designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The Air Force has 137 of them in its fleet, each valued at approximately $143 million.
The F-22 entered service in the mid-2000s and arrived at Elmendorf in August 2007. It can cruise at more than 1 1/2 times the speed of sound without using its afterburner. Its top speed is confidential.
Congress last year stopped production of the plane, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., by eliminating $1.75 billion that would have added seven F-22s to the Air Force's fleet.
An F-22 crashed in March 2009 near Edwards Air Force Base in California, killing the pilot. In July, a C-17 cargo jet from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf crashed during a training demonstration for an air show, killing all four crewmen aboard.
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